January 24, 2013
Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Sean Hannity made clear yet again last night on his TV show, “Hannity,” that facts don’t matter to him. The popular Fox News host has fixated — even crusaded — for months on a single point about the Benghazi attacks of Sept. 11: that folks at the State Department were watching this terrible set of events in “real time.” As the Erik Wemple Blog pointed out yesterday, the real-time-State-Department-watching thing has become a staple of “Hannity” broadcasts.

The contention received definitive, on-the-record refutation yesterday from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who told House lawmakers that there was “no real-time” video of the hostilities in Benghazi.

Who cares what the secretary of state says! To break down the Clinton testimony, Hannity last night pulled in Sen. Rand Paul, the firebrand who offered pointed criticism of the secretary of state during questioning. During the segment, Hannity said not once, not twice, but three times that the State Department was watching the proceedings in real time. Here’s one of the iterations:

HANNITY: All right. There are two waves of attacks that happened on September the 11th on that day, and we know it was in the final hour when for example, Ty Woods of the Navy SEAL gave his life, he saved a lot of people up to that point. Did you get an adequate explanation as to why help was not forthcoming from our government or where the President was, and what’s the rationale for the decision not to send these guys help? Charlene Lamb said they were watching it at the State Department in real time.

Bolded text added to highlight the apparent basis for Hannity’s repeatedly false assertion that the State Department was throwing a Benghazi video party on Sept. 11. In fact, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, did indeed testify before Congress on Oct. 10 about how she monitored the goings-on. Here’s a little excerpt from the session:

REP. JAMES LANKFORD: Mrs. Lamb, can you clarify for me, where — where were you working September 11? Were you in the Washington area — were — in the main facility there?
LAMB: Yes sir. I was in the D.S. Command center on the evening of the event.
LANKFORD: You — you — you note that in your testimony that you were in the Diplomatic Security Command Center and then you make this statement, “I could follow what was happening almost in real time.”
LAMB: That’s correct.
LANKFORD: So once they hit the button in Benghazi, you’re alerted, it says you could have. Did you follow what was happening in real time at that point?
LAMB: Sir, what was happening is they were making multiple phone calls and it was very important that they communicate with the annex in Tripoli because this is where additional resources were coming from. So they would hang up on us and then call back.

Note to Hannity: You can’t watch anything over the phone.

The takeaway: Almost real-time monitoring, yes. Real-time “watching,” no.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.